A Downy WoodpeckerDowny woodpecker (credit: Dave Collins)
Colorado is already known nationally as one of the best places for spotting natural wildlife, thanks to the many different state parks and protected wildlife areas. However, you may not realize just how many incredible species of birds make their way through Colorado during the warmer months and how many are even found in this beautiful state during the winter as well. If you’re a fan of birding, then it’s a great thing you live in Colorado. If you’d like to take a crack at spotting some rare bird species, then here are some of the best places in Colorado to get your own glimpse of these beautiful creatures. Bring your cameras and binoculars because you won’t want to take your eyes off the skies.
Barr Lake
13401 Picadilly Road
Brighton, CO 80603
(303) 655-1495

Located about 45 minutes north of Denver, Barr Lake is one of the best spots in Colorado for bird watching. The beautiful lake is home for just about every type of outdoor activity that Colorado is known and loved for, including hiking, biking, boating, fishing and more. When it comes to bird watching, more than 350 species of birds have been spotted in Barr Lake, including several bald eagles, which have been known to make their winter home at the lake. There is another set of bald eagles that have nested there, and you can often spot their young in the park. With it’s close proximity to Denver, the plentiful camping and picnic areas and the plethora of different species of birds, Barr Lake is one of the must-see locations for any bird watching fan in Colorado. In addition, the park is home to the Rocky Mountain Bird Observatory, which has a lot of educational programs and operates a birding station in the park itself.

Related: Top Colorado State Parks Near Denver

Chatfield State Park
11500 Roxborough Park Road
Littleton, CO 80125
(303) 791-7275

Another great, local park with lots of birds to check out is Chatfield State Park. This spot is home to more than 305 different species, including 32 species of warblers and rare birds like Kentucky, worm-eating and mourning warblers. If you are lucky, you may even be able to spot some golden eagles, prairie falcons or Swainson’s hawks, which tend to visit only in the summer. When winter rolls around, you can also find Harlan’s hawks as well as rough-legged hawks in the park. Bring your cameras and your binoculars, and plan a day of spotting the many different species of bird that call this beautiful state park home. Of course, it also helps that Chatfield State Park is relatively close to Denver, so it can easily be a day trip.

Castlewood Canyon State Park
2989 S. State Highway 83
Franktown, CO 80116
(303) 688-5242

Castlewood Canyon State Park is located less than an hour from Denver, but when you get there, you’ll feel like you’ve gone much further outside of the city. It also happens to be home to one of the biggest populations of turkey vultures in the state during the summer months. When the cold weather hits, the vultures head south, so the warmer months are a great time to spot this amazing bird. You can also find several species of Canyon wrens and bluebirds here, as well as lots of other great species. However, it’s the turkey vultures that bring birding enthusiasts from all over the area to Castlewood Canyon every summer. With such a close location, and with such a large population of vulture, there is really no reason that any birding fan should miss a trip to Castlewood Canyon this summer.

Related: Top Spots For Picnics In Denver

Jackson Lake State Park
26363 County Road 3
Orchard, CO 80649
(970) 645-1535

Jackson Lake is a bit further outside of Denver, and it will take you around an hour to an hour and a half to get there. However, birding enthusiasts from all over flock to Jackson Lake State Park because of the huge numbers of bird species found here. From long-billed curlews to whopping cranes, you’ll find some rare birds here. In the summer, you’ll find lots of Swainson’s hawks, while the winter brings rough-legged hawks and Ferrunginous hawks. Depending on the time of year, you’ll also be able to spot Northern harriers, horned hawks, lark buntings, vesper sparrows and western meadowlarks among many others. Jackson Lake State Park is like a playground for bird watchers, so grab your pals and your cameras and prepare for an amazing birding experience.

Eleven Mile Park
4229 County Road 92
Lake George, CO 80827
(719) 748-3401

Located a little further from Denver, you’ll need about two hours to reach Eleven Mile Park, so plan on making a weekend out of the trip, that way you can catch the early morning birds the day after your arrival. You’ll find lots of migratory birds, as well as birds that call this park home year-round. From song birds to raptors, shorebirds and waterfowl, there is a lot to see here. There have even been sightings spectacular species, including bald eagles, white pelicans and the elusive American peregrine falcon here. Even if you miss out on one of those, however, there are still plenty of other incredible species that call this park home, so keep Eleven Mile Park on your list of fantastic birding locations.

Deborah Flomberg is a theater professional, freelance writer and Denver native. Her work can be found at Examiner.com.